TUCKED away in a downpage story last week was the announcement that the Monday Night Club – a social club for people with learning disabilities – is moving to a new home in Worcester Arts Workshop. According to the Group‘s organiser Helen Gill , the building in Sansome Street is “the perfect venue to provide a safe and friendly place".

Which is another feather in the cap for a facility which has had its ups and downs (literally) over the years, but which has always been driven by a policy of being a community available complex to cater for a wide range of interests and uses and in some ways operates a bit under the radar.

It all started in the early 1970s when Worcester artist Tony Blakemore had the germ of an idea for a place where local art could be encouraged. He set up store over an old bakery in Friar Street, aiming not at those already in arts societies but more at the loner who felt they really had something to create.

Exhibitions were held, advice was given and it was, no doubt about it, a place where artists could go. However, it was not very big and in October 1976 the whole show moved across town to its present site, a rambling old building which started life as a beer house and had later been used as a careers office. There was much work to be done and volunteers slaved away to create a community arts centre, only to have their enthusiasm blunted when financial wrangles started and continued in fits and starts for several years.

However, the project refused to die. Occasionally it hung on by the skin of its teeth but it survived to become involved in a whole range of activities, of which art was only one. There were dance classes, jazz concerts, mime shows, poetry reading and special sessions for children. It also gained a fine reputation for its good, cheap lunches. Gradually the place began to hum.

Things were going so well that in the early Eighties, Worcester Arts Workshop announced an ambitions £90,000 expansion plan. There would be studios, new kilns, a new resource centre created on the previously uninhabitable first floor and a new theatre.

Then suddenly, in the early hours of March 29, 1983, the dreams came tumbling down. Workmen had dug a deep hole beneath the foundations of an adjoining workshop when overnight a large wall collapsed, bringing a lot of the frontage of the building with it. “The date is imprinted on my brain,” said Workshop general manager Jane Hytch later. “We thought it was the end, but as things have turned out, it has done us a lot of good.”

While work continued to sort out the problems, WAW went out into the community to use other venues and met a lot of people it might not necessarily have come into contact with otherwise. Eventually the project cost £140,000, raised from the city and county councils, the Sports Council, Worcester Mayor’s Fund and charitable causes.

Eventually it reopened on November 16, 1987 when veteran actor David Kossoff did the honours and Worcester’s Mayor Coun Cliff Lord had to climb a ladder to untie a rope to unveil a sculpture. There among the throng of well wishers was Tony Blakemore, whose bright idea had started it all 13 years before.